Belarus to provide Venezuela night vision devices

Belarusian military optics factories will supply the Venezuelan army with night vision devices, the Belapan news wire service reported on Friday.

The announcement came after meetings in Caracas between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and senior representatives of Belarus' authoritarian leader Aleksander Lukashenko.

The night vision devices will be fitted to "every single rifle in the Venezuelan army" Chavez said. The Belarusian delegation had been in Venezuela for a week, and one-on-one talks between Chavez and Belarusian lead negotiator Vladimir Sheyman lasted three hours, Belapan reported.

A former Soviet republic with a centrally-planned economy, Belarus manufactures a wide range of military supplies for export. Belarusian night vision devices suitable for rifles retail at roughly one-third the price of comparable NATO-standard devices.

The report did not give details on the size of the deal. Venezuela fields an army of 34,000 men, according the Global Security research group - making the potential value of the Venezuelan night scope order to Belarus between 3 and 24 million dollars.

Minsk and Caracas also agreed on the installation of a factory for road construction machinery in Venezuela.

The Belarusian-technology plant will assemble asphalt-laying and other road construction machines, needed by Venezuela "because such things practically do not exist in our market," Chavez said, according to the Belapan report.

Belarusian natural gas prospecting and distribution equipment, and petroleum prospecting technologies, reportedly are also on Venezuela's shopping list.

Officials from the Venezuelan national energy company Petroleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) already are in talks with Belarusian natural gas production specialists, according to the report.

Chavez, leader of one the world's leading petroleum exporting nations, has repeatedly attacked major energy multinationals as exploitative of developing nations, and called for countries like Venezuela to develop their energy resources on their own.

Like Chavez, Belarus' leader Lukashenko following a foreign policy line hostile to the US, and has worked to lessen the impact of US economic sanctions by seeking orders for Belarusian manufacturing in nonaligned nations. dpa sbk sc